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Showing posts with label Feasts of Note. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Feasts of Note. Show all posts

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Divine Mercy Indulgence: GET IT STRAIGHT!

This Sunday after Easter is traditionally called “Low Sunday” or Quasimodo Sunday.  In some circles, it has becomes (almost universally) “Divine Mercy Sunday.”  Now, this is not a blog post on the Divine Mercy Chaplet, its devotion, St. Faustina Kowalska, no a commentary on Bl. Pope John Paul II’s declaration of Low Sunday to be called “Divine Mercy Sunday.”  In point of fact, this Sunday is now properly called Divine Mercy Sunday, as Bl. John Paul II initiated this on April 30, 2000, in his homily at the canonization of St. Faustina.  So, that’s just fine.  Although, it is noteworthy to point out that the third edition of Roman Missal, having been promulgated prior to that homily, and translated much, much, MUCH later, does not seem to mandate this (it says “Second Sunday of Easter [or of Divine Mercy]”)—a curious fact which I would hardly call an oversight so much as a relaxing of JP2’s proclamation, so as to permit the Church to celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy as an option. 

Whatever the case, something came across my desk that really infuriated me.  I don’t know where it came from, but apparently it’s being marketed as the granting of a Plenary Indulgence.  Here’s the text of the flyer:

“Imagine your soul being, today, as pure as the day you were Baptized!
A Special Promise of Mercy:
Our Lord promised to grant complete forgiveness of sins and punishment on the Feast of Mercy as recorded in the Diary of St. Faustina:
I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy (Diary 1109).
 My great delight is to unite Myself with souls...when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul.  But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things.  Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love!  They treat Me as a dead object (Diary 1385, 1288).
 Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by Blessed John Paul II in the year 2000 at the canonization of Sister Faustina on April 30, 2000.  It is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.”

To borrow a rhetorical style from Fr. Z, “But, Father!  But Father!  If Jesus said it, isn’t that good enough?!” 

The short answer is a resounding “No!”  Here’s the thing.  The Church has canonized Sr. Faustina Kowalska.  As far as we are concerned, she is said to be most certainly in heaven, by virtue of the merits of her holy life and two posthumous miracles attributed to her intercession.  But the contents of her Diary—even if it was held in great esteem by a Pope—are not considered to be infallible, nor (to my knowledge) have they been declared to be authentic.  If they have, it still doesn’t change the argument made here:

Public revelation is what we have in Scripture and Tradition. It was completed, finished, when the last Apostle died and the New Testament was finished. So there is no more until Christ returns at the end. In this area the Church has His promise of providential protection in teaching.
Even though there is no new public revelation, the Church can progress in deepened understanding of the original deposit of faith--thus the Immaculate Conception, for example, was not mentioned in the first centuries, was even denied by many in Middle Ages, but could be defined in 1854. This progress is the result of the growing light of the Holy Spirit. At the Last Supper Jesus promised Him to lead the Church into all truth.
Private Revelation is all else. The word private is poor, but usual. Even Fatima, addressed to the world, is private. But there is a great difference. The Church does not have the providential protection in matters of private revelation. Ordinarily the decision of the local Bishop is final on authenticity of a revelation. Yet we would not have to believe any decision on private revelation--though we must obey a command, if a Bishop gives such, not to go to the place of a an alleged revelation. In obeying, we do not lose any graces. Christ saved the world by obedience--cf. Rom. 5:19. St. Margaret Mary says He told her: "Not only do I desire that you should do what your Superior commands, but also that you
should do nothing of all that I order without their consent. I love obedience, and without it no one can please me."
The most the Church can do on a private revelation is: 1) say it does not clash with public revelation. If it did, that part of it would be out. 2) Say it seems to deserve human acceptance--that is in contrast to something accepted on the divine virtue of faith, which comes into play only in the area of public revelation.  (Taken from EWTN)
So, what’s the point of all this?  My point is that there is a great deal of misinformation going around about the nature of Divine Mercy Sunday.  Despite what flyers and popular piety and devotion, and even pastors of souls, are saying, THERE IS NO PLENARY INDULGENCE GRANTED FOR ATTENDING MASS ON DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY.  Period.  End of Discussion.  That’s all she wrote.

Now, how do we know this?  Because the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (the handbook of Indulgences), last promulgated in 2004, states very clearly the following:

First of all, “Participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacraments is not, according to tradition, enriched with indulgences; for, in and of themselves, they hold a very high (praecelsam) efficacy as far as sanctification and purification goes” (Praenotanda, 3).

Second, that same Enchiridion Indulgentiarum lists in its index all of the specific liturgical days and feasts on which some form of indulgence is granted.  These days include participation in the Solemn Easter Vigil, the Solemnity of Pentecost, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Week for Christian Unity, et al.  But it does not concede any form of indulgence for the Second Sunday of Easter, aka Low Sunday, aka Dominica in Albis, aka Divine Mercy Sunday.  And if it has not been granted by the Church, then there exists no guarantee of the conferral of the promised grace.

So, I hate to be the party pooper here.  But this "indulgence for attending Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday" does not exist! 

Now, before people go all apesnot over this entry, a few things:  I am not discouraging devotion to the Divine Mercy of Our Lord, nor to St. Faustina and her writings.  I am not saying you don’t have to come to Mass this Sunday, since you’re not “getting something extra.”  Truth be told, I love the Divine Mercy Chaplet—I think it’s a wonderful devotion.  But no nun—not matter how holy or influential, or how authentic we may believe her visions of Christ to be—has the authority to grant the full remission of all temporal punishment due to the effects of sin! can do!

All this having been said, THERE IS THIS:
“a plenary indulgence, granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!");
 A partial indulgence, granted to the faithful who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.”  (Granted June 29, 2002)

So, before I get people freaking out all over the place, let’s get our facts straight about the Divine Mercy devotion, Divine Mercy Sunday, and everything else that seems to have been thrown into the mix.

To everyone out there, have a very blessed Second Sunday of Easter (or Of Divine Mercy)!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Halfway there...

My apologies for the unexpected cessation of they say, "Lent happens!"

For your consideration, some inspirational words from Dom Prosper Guéranger in The Liturgical Year.  (Just pretend it's still Thursday of the Third Week of Lent!)

This day brings us to the middle of Lent, and is called mid-Lent Thursday.  It is the twentieth of the forty fasts imposed upon us, at this holy season, by the Church.  The Greeks call the Wednesday of this week Mesonestios, that is, the mid-fast.  They give this name to the entire week,which, in their liturgy, is the fourth of the seven that form their Lent.  But the Wednesday is, with them, a solemn feast, and a day of rejoicing, whereby they animate themselves to courage during the rest of the season.  The Catholic nations of the West, though they do not look on this day as a feast, have always kept it with some degree of festivity and joy.  The Church of Rome has countenanced the custom by her own observance of it; but, in order not to give a pretext to dissipation, which might interfere with the spirit of fasting, she postpones to the following Sunday the formal expression of this innocent joy, as we shall see further on.  Yet, it is not against the spirit of the Church that this mid-day of Lent should not be marked by some demonstration of gladness; for example, by sending invitations to friends, as our Catholic forefathers used to do; and serving up to table choicer and more abundant food than on other days of Lent, taking care, however, that the laws of the Church are strictly observed.  But alas! how many even of those calling themselves Catholics have been breaking, for the past twenty days, these laws of abstinence and fasting!  Whether the dispensations they trust to be lawfully or unlawfully obtained, the joy of mid-Lent THursday scarcely seems made for them.  To experience this joy, one must have earned and merited it, by penance, by privations, by bodily mortifications; which is just what so many, now-a-days, cannot think of doing.  Let us pray for them, that God would enlighten them, and enable them to see what they are bound to do, consistently with the faith they profess.

At Rome, the Station is at the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, in the forum.  The Christians of the middle ages (as we learn from Durandus, in his Rationale of the Divine Offices) were under the impression that this Station was chosen because these two saints were, by profession, physicians.  The Church, according to this explanaton, would not only offer up her prayers of this day for the souls, but also for the bodies of her children: she would draw down upon them--fatigued as she knew they must be by their observance of abstinence and fasting--the protection of these holy martyrs, who, whilst on earth, devoted their medical skill to relieving the corporal ailments of their brethren.  The remarks made by the learned liturgiologist Gavantus, in reference to this interpretation, lead us to conclude that, although it may possibly not give us the real motive of the Church's selecting this Station, yet it is not to be rejected.  It will, at least, suggest to the faithful to recommend themselves to these saints, and to ask of God, through their intercession, that they may have the necessary courage and strength for persevering to the end of the holy season in what they have, so far, faithfully observed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coming into the h O me stretch...

An excellent reflection on the upcoming Great Antiphons that take us through the week leading into Christmas.  More about them tomorrow, as we begin our official countdown.  For the time being, here is some food for thought from Roma Locuta Est:

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about the loss of Catholic identity that the Church has undergone in recent generations.  I haven’t decided if it is the natural result of changing tides in culture or if it was accomplished by a deliberate iconoclasm of sorts that plagued the Church in the later part of last century.  Whatever the reason, it seems undeniable that a large portion of the faithful havelost a sense of Catholic identity.  Participation in the Sacraments and the broader life of faith has become more what we do rather than what we are.  (Pope Benedict has called this a false primacy of praxis over being.)  Recently I recalled a story a priest once told me.  This particular gentleman grew up on the east side of Columbus, Ohio, where his family owned a bar/restaurant.  Every day at noon when the bells rang out from the Catholic Church across the street, everyone in the bar dropped what they were doing and said the Angelus.  Even those who were not Catholic sat in silence during the recitation of the prayer because they know if they didn’t, they would not be served.  This story is an illustration of Catholic identity.  If the same bells were to ring today, how many Catholic would know why, let alone be able to rattle off the words to the Angelus?
The example of bygone practices once integral to the life of a Catholic seems endless.  One such instance is the ancient tradition of the O Antiphons.  Beginning on December 17 and continuing for seven days, the antiphons for the Magnificatduring evening Vespers all begin with “O, ...”.  Each of the antiphons is addressed to Christ using one of his scriptural titles and concludes with a distinct petition to the coming Lord.  For instance, the first antiphon (December 17) reads:
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.
The translation in the American breviary is not quite literal:
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.
The dating of the antiphons goes back to at least the sixth century (Boethius mentions them in the early 500’s).  By the eight century, the antiphons were being used in Rome.  One of the more striking thing about the seven antiphons cannot be seen in translation, but only in the original Latin.  The seven titles of Christ that begin each of the antiphons are:
Sapientia (Wisdom)
Adonai (Lord)
Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
Clavis David (Key of David)
Oriens (Dawn)
Rex Gentium (King of Nations)
Emmanuel (Emmanuel)
Reading the first letter of each title beginning with the last (December 23), we find EROCRAS.  In Latin, ero cras means “I will be (there) tomorrow.”
While the recitation of the antiphons themselves has fallen out of use, a particular adaption of them is quite popular in churches, both Catholic and non: the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.  Consider the corresponding verse for the December 17 antiphon (O Sapientia):
Veni, O Sapientia,
Quae hic disponis omnia,
Veni, viam prudentiae
Ut doceas et gloriae.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Of course, most parishes begin playing this on the first Sunday of Advent, when ideally it should be delayed until much closer to Christmas, preferable beginning on December 17.  Of course it would be better to hold public Vespers from December 17 through the 23rd; then the corresponding verse from the hymn can be sung on the intended day.
While the parish is the first place we encounter the public worship of the Church, Catholic identity is first encountered in the domestic church.  Of course, both the domestic Church and the parish must always properly oriented to the universal Church.  Thus, the introduction of the O Antiphons within the home can provide a beautiful crescendo of preparation in the final days of Advent.  If families are in the habit of praying Vespers, then they will encounter the antiphons in their proper context.  For our own part, our family will pray the antiphons at the dinner table before the family meal.  The mother will light the candles of the Advent wreath while the father chants the antiphon in the original Gregorian melody.  The oldest child will then read the vernacular translation of the antiphon, and later at Compline, the entire family will sing the corresponding verse in “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

However it is done, the recovery of the O Antiphons can serve as a perfect opportunity for instilling Catholic identity within the home and the broader parish community.  Advent is a time of preparation, of penance, and of anticipation for the coming Christ child.  The progressive lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath serves to evoke this growing sense of anticipation.  The recitation of the O Antiphons provides a finale of sorts for this crescendo.  With the universal Church and with a great sense of Christian hope, we pray for the coming of the Lord, the one who will save us from our sin and restore us to the favor of the Father.
O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.
                                                               (Antiphon from December 23)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1: All Saints Day!

In honor of All Saints Day, part of a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, as found in the Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours, 1970) for today.  (Text taken from

Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honours when their heavenly Father honours them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning. 
  Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them. 
  Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory. 
  When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory. Until then we see him, not as he is, but as he became for our sake. He is our head, crowned, not with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury; his purple robes are a mockery rather than an honour. When Christ comes again, his death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with him. The glorious head of the Church will appear and his glorified members will shine in splendour with him, when he forms this lowly body anew into such glory as belongs to himself, its head. 
  Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession.
 As has been said in the past....what we now are, they once were; and what they are now, we hope to be!

A blessed Feast of All Saints to one and all!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mark your Calendars: Big Feasts Coming Up!

Big Feasts on the Horizon!
  • Tuesday, November 1, is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation**! 
On this day, we commemorate all our brothers and sisters in the Faith who have gone to glory--the Saints whom we know to be in heaven because of their merits in this life, and by the proved efficacy of their intercession from the next life.  What a beautiful day to come together as one People of Faith and worship our God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where all three branches of the Church (on earth, in purgatory, and in Heaven) come together and praise the Lord with one voice!
Read more about it here.  In answer to why we pray to the Saints, check out this brief explanation.


** “But Father, Father, what do you mean by ‘obligation’?  I thought we had a choice now.” 

We always have a choice—the choice to follow the precepts of God and the Church, or not to.  It’s called free will.  However, not to fulfill one’s obligations to God and His Holy Church (apart from situations where to do so is impossible and beyond our control due to a “grave reason”) constitutes a mortal sin which must be absolved through sacramental Confession.  Those who are unable to attend Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation due to a grave reason (illness, caring for the sick or for children, work commitments; sports practices do not count as ‘grave’), may fulfill their obligation of observing the Feast by spending an appropriate time in prayer, either individually or as a family, or in a small group (canon 1247 §2).
·      “The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:  The first precept—“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”—requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [1997], §§ 2041-2042)
  • Wednesday, November 2, is All Souls Day, a Holy Day of Opportunity!

This is a tremendous opportunity to pray for the souls of our deceased loved ones, that they may be freed from the bonds of Purgatory and enter into the eternal bliss of God’s Heavenly Kingdom, to join with the Saints in everlasting glory.  Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon themMay they rest in peace!
For further information on why we pray for our dead, see this post and this post!  Happy reading!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 7: Our Lady of Victory

On October 7, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, also called Our Lady of Victory.  The Feast was established after the European victory over the Ottoman Turks on October 7, 1571--a victory in which a greatly out-numbered European force was victorious through the intercession of The Blessed Virgin Mary.  This victory is attributed to Our Lady because of the exhortation of Pope St. Pius V, who instructed all Catholics to pray the Rosary for the intention of victory against the Turkish invaders.  

During this month of October, which is dedicated to Our Lady, it behooves all of us as Catholics and Christians never to lose sight of the tremendous sacrifice that so many have made so that we might continue to practice our Faith, and to practice it freely.  And we entrust to the intercession of the Mother of God our fellow Christians throughout the world who do not enjoy such freedoms.  May Our Lady of Victory give them victory over their oppressors, that they may be free to worship as Catholics without fear of persecution!

Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!

October 7: Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, or Our Lady of Victory.  As posted earlier in the week, this feast commemorates Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, but also serves to mark the anniversary of the glorious victory of western Christendom over the invading Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.  

It is true that the Rosary is probably the single most identifiable mark of a Catholic.  For Catholics, it is a devotion steeped in tradition as we meditate on the great mysteries of the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother.  For non-Catholics, it is often seen as a stumbling block or a point of ridicule, used by some polemicists to attack the Church as being nothing more than a Marian cult or a medieval relic.  

The history of the Rosary is, in itself, something that few people take the time to learn.  I post below a brief history of the Holy Rosary, as found at

The traditional story of the rosary was that Mary herself appeared to Saint Dominic in the twelfth century. At that time, tradition says she gave him the rosary and promised Dominic that if he spread devotion to the rosary, his religious order would flourish. It is quite true that Dominic was quite devoted to the Blessed Mother, but no one knows for sure if Our Lady herself gave Dominic the rosary. If she did, it is quite certain that she did not give him a rosary that looks like the one we have today. 
Originally the rosary had 150 beads, the same number of psalms in the Bible. In the twelfth century, religious orders recited together the 150 Psalms as a way to mark the hours of the day and the days of the week. Those people who didn’t know how to read wanted to share in this practice, so praying on a string of 150 beads or knots began as a parallel to praying the psalms. It was a way that the illiterate could remember the Lord and his mother throughout the day. The “Divine Office”; the official prayer of the church; is the recitation of the psalms over a four week period, and is still prayed today.
Mantegna's "Madonna della Vittoria"
This first rosary was prayed as we do today, a person would pass their fingers over each bead and say a prayer, usually the “Our Father”. The “Hail Mary” as we know it wasn’t even around at that time. 
The Hail Mary owes its origin to the rosary. When people said the rosary in the twelfth century, Gabrielle’s greeting “Hail Mary, full or grace, the Lord is with thee” was often said along with the Our Father. Later, Elizabeth’s greeting ”blessed are you among women” was added. It was not until the sixteenth century that the words “Holy Mary., Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death” were added. 
Various people have added other things to the rosary over the centuries. In the fifteenth century, a Carthusian monk divided the rosary into fifteen brackets (or decades) and a Dominican assigned mysteries to each of the decades. These mysteries were events in the life of  Jesus as written in the gospels. By meditating on these events even the illiterate could  know the stories in the Bible. These decades were the same as ours except for the last two Glorious mysteries. In those two, the Coronation and the Assumption together made up the fourteenth decade and the fifteenth decade was the Last Judgment...
Despite all the additions and changes, the important core of the rosary has always remained the same. It is a way for God’s people to make holy the day, and to remember the life of Jesus and his mother. May these humble origins always be with us each time we pray the rosary. 
On this special day in honor of Our Lady, take the time to pray the Rosary, and to thank Our Lady for the manifold graces of God that she wins for us on a daily basis by her unceasing intercession for humanity.

For those who want a beautiful spiritual reflection on Our Lady of the Rosary, check out Word on Fire.

And for those who don't know how to pray the Rosary and would like to learn, here's a guide for you from The Rosary Confraternity, run by the Dominican Friars.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14: The Exultation of the Cross - a brief homily

"Ave Crux, spes unica!"

Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, a Feast which is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of the great Solemn Feast of the Crucifixion of Our Lord, Good Friday.  Indeed, the magnitude of Good Friday is such that a single day cannot fully encapsulate the totality of that which the Church celebrates, and so today we celebrate the very instrument by which our salvation was won, the Holy Cross of Christ!

The legend of the Cross begins with Adam himself.  It is said that Adam preserved from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil a single seed, which, as he lay dying, he entrusted to his son Seth (whom Eve believed God sent to replace Abel, after his murder at the hands of Cain--cf. Genesis 4:25).  When Adam died, Seth placed the seed in Adam's mouth.  At Adam's burial, the seed sprouted, and from it grew a large tree.  

Years later, the tree was cut down, and its wood was used to construct a bridge.  One day, the Queen of Sheba, as she attempted to cross the bridge, was alerted to the wood's significance by a voice from heaven, telling her that this wood would be used to kill the world's savior.  At once, she began to venerate the wood.  Upon telling King Solomon of this, he ordered the bridge be dismantled and the wood be hidden, so as to ensure that such a terrible fate would not befall the world's savior.

However, the wood was later found, and was fashioned into the Cross on which Jesus was crucified.  The Romans, to prevent the Apostles from procuring and venerating the Cross, hid the cross, and later constructed over it a temple to the goddess Venus.  

There it lay for 300 years, until Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, discovered it.

And so this Cross came full circle.  The progeny of that tree that plunged humanity into the depths of sin and darkness became the means by which man was redeemed and returned to the light!  The life which Adam destroyed through his disobedience was restored by the death of the "new Adam," Jesus Christ, who was "obedient even unto death, death on a cross!"  

Our salvation rests on the wood of the Cross.  And while so many other kings have for themselves thrones of silver and gold, our great King reigns from a throne of wood--the wood of the Cross, which is the sign, the symbol, and the actuality of our hope of life eternal!

Hail to thee, O Cross, our singular hope!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

September 8
The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, and born into the world this day, that she might become the Mother of God, giving birth to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

In celebrating this Feast, Christians begin to anticipate the coming of Christ's own Nativity, as we observe those mysterious events that led up to the Mystery of the Incarnation!

"The present Feast forms a link between the New and the Old Testament. It shows that Truth succeeds symbols and figures and that the New Covenant replaces the Old. Hence, all creation sings with joy, exults, and participates in the joy of this day.... This is, in fact, the day on which the Creator of the world constructed His temple; today is the day on which by a stupendous project a creature becomes the preferred dwelling of the Creator." (St. Andrew of Crete)

The Divine Office this morning presents to us the following hymn in honor of the Feast:

Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from thou hast risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.
Destroying the curse, He gave blessing;
and damning death, He bestowed on us
life everlasting.
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For from thou hast risen of Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

May Our Lady, whose birth we celebrate this day, continue to watch over her children and, by her prayers, win for us the grace of God in our lives to know, love, and do the will of our Heavenly Father!

O Mary, conceived without sin, Pray for us who have recourse unto thee!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September 3: The Coronation of Pope St. Gregory the Great

Today, according to the calendar of 1970, the Church celebrates the Feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great. His original feast--March 12, the day of his death--was transferred so as not to coincide with the Season of Lent.  Thus, September 3 was chosen, as it was the date at which Gregory acceded to the Throne of St. Peter.  

In honor of this feast, I re-post a segment of a homily from St. Gregory as it appeared in the Office of Readings today:
‘Son of man, I have appointed you as watchman to the house of Israel.’ Note that Ezekiel, whom the Lord sent to preach his word, is described as a watchman. Now a watchman always takes up his position on the heights so that he can see from a distance whatever approaches. Likewise whoever is appointed watchman to a people should live a life on the heights so that he can help them by taking a wide survey.
These words are hard to utter, for when I speak it is myself that I am reproaching. I do not preach as I should nor does my life follow the principles I preach so inadequately.
I do not deny that I am guilty, for I see my torpor and my negligence. Perhaps my very recognition of failure will win me pardon from a sympathetic judge. When I lived in a monastic community I was able to keep my tongue from idle topics and to devote my mind almost continually to the discipline of prayer. Since taking on my shoulders the burden of pastoral care, I have been unable to keep steadily recollected because my mind is distracted by many responsibilities.
I am forced to consider questions affecting churches and monasteries and often 1 must judge the lives and actions of individuals; at one moment I am forced to take part in certain civil affairs, next I must worry over the incursions of barbarians and fear the wolves who menace the flock entrusted to my care; now I must accept political responsibility in order to give support to those who preserve the rule of law; now I must bear patiently the villainies of brigands, and then I must confront them, yet in all charity.
My mind is sundered and torn to pieces by the many and serious things I have to think about. When I try to concentrate and gather all my intellectual resources for preaching, how can I do justice to the sacred ministry of the word? I am often compelled by the nature of my position to associate with men of the world and sometimes I relax the discipline of my speech. If I preserved the rigorously inflexible mode of utterance that my conscience dictates, I know that the weaker sort of men would recoil from me and that I could never attract them to the goal I desire for them. So I must frequently listen patiently to their aimless chatter. Because I am weak myself I am drawn gradually into idle talk and I find myself saying the kind of thing that I didn’t even care to listen to before. I enjoy lying back where I once was loath to stumble.
Who am I — what kind of watchman am I? I do not stand on the pinnacle of achievement, I languish rather in the depths of my weakness. And yet the creator and redeemer of mankind can give me, unworthy though I be, the grace to see life whole and power to speak effectively of it. It is for love of him that I do not spare myself in preaching him.
St. Gregory the Great, pray for us! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18-26: Novena to Saint Monica

Today we begin our novena to Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, for all those who have fallen away from the Faith.  For the next nine days, we will pray as a community that all the lost sheep may be returned to the one flock of Christ.  To help us in our efforts, I submit the following Novena Prayer (and make apologies for it being so late today).  The novena will conclude with Mass on Saturday for the Feast of St. Monica.  If you're in the Follansbee area, Mass it here at Saint Anthony's at 7:30 a.m.  Come by and see us.

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
you perserveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all parents in our day
so that they may learn to draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart
during your lifetime. Yet you never despaired or lost faith.

With confidence, persistence and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius
and your beloved son, Augustine. Grant us that same fortitude, patience and trust in the Lord.

Intercede for us, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear our plea
for the perseverance of all parents of children who have fallen away from the Faith, and for those children themselves, that God may open their hearts to His call.

And grant us the grace to accept his will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.
Saint Monica, pray for us!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Assumption of Our Lady (revisited)

In case the previous post didn't satisfy your appetite for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, here's a money quote attributed to someone claiming to be St. Jerome:
“Today is the festivity upon which the Virgin Mary, in glory and rejoicing, came to the heavenly bridal chamber, a festivity beyond comparison with all the feasts of the other saints, wondered at even by the powers of Heaven, as the blessed Mary herself is beyond all comparison with other holy Virgins. Wherefore, in the person of the citizens of Heaven, the Holy Spirit wondering at her Assumption sayeth in the Canticles, ‘Who is she that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices? ’ And well is she compared to a pillar of smoke, because she is graceful and delicate, being made fine by godly discipline, and burnt within unto a holocaust by the fire of holy love, and the desire of charity. ‘As a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices,’ doubtless because she was filled with many good scents of the virtues; a most sweet scent came forth from her even unto the angelic spirits. The Mother of God ascended from the desert of this world, a rod once risen out of the root of Jesse; but the souls of the elect wondered for their joy, who this might be, that in her virtues outstripped even the dignity of the Angels’ merits.
This quote is part of an excellent piece written by my good, long-time friend Gregory DiPippo, who is the Rome correspondent for The New Liturgical Movement.  

August 15: The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

El Greco's "Assumption of the Virgin"
I always find it best to begin a reflection on the great Mystery of the Assumption with the Dogmatic definition as it was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950:
"By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."
What does this mean for us?  Bl. John Paul II put it best in his homily from the Solemnity of the Assumption 2001:
"Mary's assumption is an event that concerns us precisely because every human being is destined to die.  But death is not the last word.  It is the passage to the eternal happiness in store for those who toil truth and justice and do their utmost to follow Christ."
The very glory which Mary experienced in her Assumption is the same glory that awaits all the Faithful at the resurrection of the dead.  God assumed Mary into heaven not just because of her own merits and his desire to preserve her body from the corruption and decay of death, but to give us a foretaste of that awesome reward which we, too, hope to obtain by our continued perseverance in this valley of tears!

May God bless all of you on this great Feast of Our Lady, and may the Blessed Virgin's prayers help keep you on the path to eternal life!

Incidentally, here at St. Anthony's at the 6:00 p.m. we celebrated a Solemn Mass and blessed herbs according to the traditional blessing found in the old Roman Ritual.  It was a truly beautiful experience.  If there are photos to be had, they will be posted later.

Following the Mass, my own blessed herbs (mainly sweet basil) were then harvested and turned into enough pesto to last the winter! 

On a side note, this was not a Holy Day of Obligation so much as a Holy Day of Opportunity, and I was delighted to see that almost 50 parishioners came out for the evening Mass, which is usually not on the schedule.  Next year, I expect that number to triple!  I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Solemnity of the Assumption & the Blessing of Herbs

Monday is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blesses Virgin Mary. More on that tomorrow.

Tomorrow at St. Anthony's in Follansbee, at the 6:00 pm Solemn Mass, we will have the traditional blessing of herbs, which is proper to this great Feast.

"This blessing comes from Germany, and formulas for it are found as early as the tenth century. The blessing of herbs was reserved only to the feast of the Assumption. Herbs had not our restricted English meaning but included all kinds of cultivated and wild flowers, especially those which in some way had a symbolic relation to our Lady. The people brought herbs to church on her feast not only to secure for themselves another blessed object, but also to make of the occasion a harvest festival of thanksgiving to God for His great bounty manifested in the abundant fruits of the earth. The herbs were placed on the altar, and even beneath the altar-cloths, so that from this close contact with the Eucharist they might receive a special consecration, over and above the ordinary sacramental blessing of the Church." (from the 1964 Roman Ritual)

Come one, come all...and bring your herbs and flowers to be blessed!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hymn to St. Lawrence

S. Lawrence, deacon & martyr
The following hymn was the proper hymn for Lauds (Morning Prayer) this morning.  Truly one of the gems of the musical patrimony of the Church:

When Lawrence was led out to die,
Love made him prodigal of life,
No armor would he use but faith
Against the persecutor’s strife.

The first of seven chosen men
Selected at the Pope’s behest,
A deacon’s office to fulfil,
In virtue he surpassed the rest.

He was a leader in the fight,
Although no sword hung by his side,
And with a smile in face of death,
He could the torturer deride.

We praise your triumph here on earth,
So, holy Lawrence, lend your aid,
May each of us your favor feel,
Receiving grace for which we prayed.

For all the care with which you served
And loved the city’s poor in Rome,
What luster must enhance your crown
For ever in the Father’s home!

To Father, Son, and Spirit too,
Be honor, homage and renown,
Who will reward your prayers for us
By granting an eternal crown. Amen.

(In martyris Laurentii, translation by the Benedictines of St. Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde, UK)

August 10: St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates one of the great Roman saints, St. Lawrence (or San Lorenzo, as he's known in the Urbs Aetera), deacon and martyr.  The fame of the life and death of St. Lawrence have spread throughout the world, and he still serves as an inspiration almost 1800 years after he suffered martyrdom.

Lawrence giving alms, by Bl. Angelico
The story of his death is that while he was ministering at the altar, Pope St. Sixtus II (who was saying the Mass) was apprehended and led to his death.  Sixtus told Lawrence not to cry, for his own arrest and death would come but fourdays later.  And so it did!  Upon the arrest of St. Sixtus, Lawrence was instructed by the prefect of Rome to turn over to him all of the wealth and treasures of the Church.  For three days, Lawrence worked tirelessly to distribute all the assets of the Church to the poor, so as to prevent it from being seized by the emperor
On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom. (source)
Lawrence was led out and grilled alive.  Legend states that at one point during his agony, he looked at the man roasting him and quipped, "I'm done on this side.  You can turn me over now."  

Since the fourth century, with a little help from Ss. Ambrose and Augustine, the cult of St. Lawrence has spread to all of Western Churches, and it continues to be a day of great celebration, especially in Rome, where multiple basilicas are named for the saint. 

The collect for St. Lawrence in the pre-1970 liturgical books of the Church is very poignant:
O Almighty God,
Who didst give unto Blessed Lawrence power
to be more than conqueror in his fiery torment;
grant unto us, we beseech thee,
the power to quench the flames of our sinful lusts.
Through Jesus Christ, we pray
 More about the life of St. Lawrence can be found here

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8: St. Dominic

Tomb of St. Dominic, Bologna, Italy
A man who governs his passions is master of his world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.       - St. Dominic

Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the life of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (commonly called the Dominicans).   The Dominicans were often the object of a play on their name in Latin: Domini canes (dogs or hounds of the Lord).  Thus, one of the symbols of St. Dominic is a dog with a torch in its mouth.

To read more about the fascinating life of St. Dominic, check out his write-up in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Friday, August 5, 2011

August 5: Our Lady of the Snows

I know, I know...nothing's been posted here in a week.  Things have been busy.  But with so many great Feasts these days, I would be remiss if I didn't post something.

The following comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Pope Liberius drawing the outline of the
basilica-to-be in the miraculous snow.
A feast celebrated on 5 August to commemorate the dedication of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline Hill in Rome. The church was originally built by Pope Liberius (352-366) and was called after him "Basilica Liberii" or "Liberiana". It was restored by Pope Sixtus III (432-440) and dedicated to Our Lady. From that time on it was known as "Basilica S. Mariæ" or "Mariæ Majoris"; since the seventh century it was known also as "Maria ad Præsepe". The appellation "ad Nives" (of the snow) originated a few hundred years later, as did also the legend which gave this name to the church. The legend runs thus: During the pontificate of Liberius, the Roman patrician John and his wife, who were without heirs, made a vow to donate their possessions to Our lady. They prayed to her that she might make known to them in what manner they were to dispose of their property in her honour. On 5 August, during the night, snow fell on the summit of the Esquiline Hill and, in obedience to a vision which they had the same night, they built a) basilica, in honour of Our Lady, on the spot which was covered with snow. From the fact that no mention whatever is made of this alleged miracle until a few hundred years later, not even by Sixtus III in his eight-lined dedicatory inscription [edited by de Rossi, "Inscript. Christ.", II, I (Rome, 1888), 71; Grisar (who has failed to authenticate the alleged miracle), "Analecta Romana", I (Rome, 1900), 77; Duchesne, "Liber Pontificalis", I (Paris, 1886), 235; Marucchi, "Eléments d'archéologie chrétienne", III (Paris and Rome, 1902), 155, etc.] it would seem that the legend has no historical basis. Originally the feast was celebrated only at Sta Maria Maggiore; in the fourteenth century it was extended to all the churches of Rome and finally it was made a universal feast by Pius V. Clement VIII raised it from a feast of double rite to double major. The mass is the common one for feasts of the Blessed Virgin; the office is also the common one of the Bl. Virgin, with the exception of the second Nocturn, which is an account of the alleged miracle. The congregation, whichBenedict XIV instituted for the reform of the Breviary in 1741, proposed that the reading of the legend be struck from the Office and that the feast should again receive its original name, "Dedicatio Sanctæ Mariæ".
This is one of my favorite feast days, in part because on this day at Rome, the Patriarchal (or Papal) Basilica of St. Mary Major celebrates the Feast of its Dedication, and they release white rose petals from the clerestory level to symbolize the miraculous snowfall.  Here's a great shot of that awesome event: 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 4: St. John-Marie Vianney

This quote was posted on Facebook by a priest-friend of mine in Milwaukee, and it says SO much:
‎"All Good Works together are not of equal value with the sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the works of men, and the holy Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison; it is the sacrifice that man makes of his life to God; the Mass is the sacrifice that God makes to man of His Body and of His Blood." - St. John Mary Vianney
St. John-Marie Vianney is, by far, one of the greatest saints of the past 300 years, and is the patron saint of parish priests.  The exceptional example of his life is something that should be emulated by all parish priests--a life of humble simplicity, a life of true and perfect devotion, a life of uncompromising evangelization and unwavering conviction!!!  In any age, if the Church had but 100 John Vianneys, we could change the world!  I'm convinced of it! 

To read more about St. John Vianney, check out Catholic Encyclopedia's article or read this fascinating and poetic book by Fr. George Rutler, The Cure d'Ars Today: St. John Vianney.

Make sure to thank your parish priest for all he does. Believe's more than you probably realize!

St. John-Marie Vianney, PRAY FOR US!

August 4: St. John-Marie Vianney

This quote was posted on Facebook by a priest-friend of mine in Milwaukee, and it says SO much:
‎"All Good Works together are not of equal value with the sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the works of men, and the holy Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison; it is the sacrifice that man makes of his life to God; the Mass is the sacrifice that God makes to man of His Body and of His Blood." - St. John Mary Vianney
St. John-Marie Vianney is, by far, one of the greatest saints of the past 300 years, and is the patron saint of parish priests.  The exceptional example of his life is something that should be emulated by all parish priests--a life of humble simplicity, a life of true and perfect devotion, a life of uncompromising evangelization and unwavering conviction!!!  In any age, if the Church had but 100 John Vianneys, we could change the world!  I'm convinced of it! 

To read more about St. John Vianney, check out Catholic Encyclopedia's article or read this fascinating and poetic book by Fr. George Rutler, The Cure d'Ars Today: St. John Vianney.

Make sure to thank your parish priest for all he does. Believe's more than you probably realize!

St. John-Marie Vianney, PRAY FOR US!